Electric Vehicles With Lithium-Ion Battery Could Put North Carolina Motorists at Risk of Fire-Related Car Accidents

A recent article in Bloomberg Business Week reported that car safety inspectors are looking more scrupulously at all plug-in electric vehicles manufactured with lithium-ion batteries as their power source. We mention this because our car accident attorneys in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and elsewhere are concerned about consumer safety after reading about two separate incidents involving a Chevrolet Volt that have a lithium-ion battery.
We find it odd that the battery defect wasn’t found earlier. A defective vehicle or its parts can cause serious injury if a fire-related car accident in Greensboro or elsewhere occurs, especially if there are occupants. Automobile manufacturers should have detected a problem with the foreign-based batteries produced by the largest chemical maker in South Korea prior to making them the power source of many electric cars being sold on the market today.

Fortunately no one was hurt in either incident. The first incident was a report of a Chevrolet Volt sitting at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) testing center parking lot when it caught fire. The car had undergone a side-impact crash test three weeks prior to the fire. As a result of the incident, safety regulators are talking to all manufacturing companies, including Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors that already sell or intend to use lithium-ion batteries in their electric vehicles about the fire risks associated with the battery.

More recently, another fire-related incident involving a Volt charging in a residential garage in Mooresville, N.C., has a team of NHTSA investigators involved in an ongoing investigation. Several other charging stations were installed in homes in North and South Carolina by Duke Energy Corp. but have been told to stop using the station to prevent the risk of injury until the investigation is complete.

An engineering consultant from Michigan knowledgeable about lithium batteries commented that lithium burns really hot but it isn’t a common hazard. A lithium battery can catch fire when the battery case or some of the internal cells get pierced by steel or other ferrous metals. When a lithium battery is pierced like that, the temperature begins to rise through a chemical reaction. Depending on the size of the piercing, the reaction could cause a fire to ignite immediately ot it could take days or weeks to occur.

Electric plug-in vehicles are the wave of the future. In fact, by 2015 President Barack Obama said he would like to to have 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roadways to countermeasure the dependence on foreign oil supplies. In addition to the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf is also powered by a lithium-ion battery. As of October 31, there have been more than 13,000 Leafs and Volts sold in the U.S. this year. Toyota Motor Corp. uses a nickel-metal battery in its top-selling hybrid vehicle the Prius. However, a plug-in version of the Prius and an electric RAV 4 will be using lithium batteries.

Defective vehicles put consumers at risk of injury and often require experienced advice when an accident occurs.

The North Carolina car accident attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A are experienced in consulting victims and their families who have been injured by a defective car or car-related accident in Greensboro, Asheville, Statesville, Charlotte or the surrounding areas. Call for a free appointment to discuss your claim at 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
GM Volt Fire After Crash Said to Prompt Lithium-Battery Probe, by Jeff Green, David Welch and Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg Businessweek.

More Blog Entries:
North Carolina Car Accident Watch: Safer Vehicles Reduce the Risk of Accidents, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, October 25, 2011.

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